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When it comes to health-care spending, U.S. is "on a different planet"

For some eye-popping facts on U.S. health-care spending compared to that of other nations, check out a post from Ezekiel Emanuel, MD, PhD, on The New York Times’ Opinionator blog. Emanuel acknowledges that we’ve heard gloomy statistics about health-care costs many times before but adds that “few people really understand how much we spend on health care, how much we need to spend to provide quality care, and the difference between the two.”

He asks, “Do we spend too much? Would cutting costs require rationing, or worse, death panels?” And his answers aren’t pretty.

If you suffer from hypertension, I advise you to read no further. For the rest of us, here goes: Noting that the Unites States spent $2.6 trillion on health care in 2010, Emanuel writes:

If we stacked single dollar bills on top of one another, $2.6 trillion would reach more than 170,000 miles — nearly three-quarters of the way to the moon. Or, compare our spending to that of other countries. France has the fifth largest economy in the world, with a gross domestic product of nearly $2.6 trillion. The United States spends on health care alone what the 65 million people in France spend on everything: education, defense, the environment, scientific research, vacations, food, housing, cars, clothes and health care.

And we’re not getting better care, either:

Almost no matter how we measure it — whether by life expectancy or by survival for specific diseases like asthma, heart disease or some cancers; by the rate of medical errors; or simply by satisfaction with health services — the United States is actually doing worse than a number of countries, like France and Germany, that spend considerably less.

But it was the following statements that reduced me to a state of head-cradling doom:

The fact is that when it comes to health care, the United States is on another planet. The United States spends around 40 percent more per person than the next highest-spending countries, Switzerland and Norway.

Previously: U.S. health-care costs rising faster than abroad
Photo by Veeyawn

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